The story of the Eyrie, 1908-39

BEDFORD TOWN GROUNDS, 1908-39

The complicated story of the various grounds used by pre-1908 Bedford Town sides has been outlined in the section dealing with the 1880s and 90s (see The first two Bedford Towns) . Fortunately the history of where the refounded 1908 club played is a little clearer.

At the inaugural club meeting in July 1908, the secretary, Mr Manning, told the audience that “the [playing] field was on the London Road”. He may have been referring to the same field that was used in the late 1890s, perhaps “Willmer’s Meadow” on the western side of London Road, or the field “opposite”, where we know football was also played in that period. Both would have been familiar to football followers in the town. However, an important source of information here is the short history included in the Supporters’ Club Handbook published in the close season of 1952.

[Photo by courtesy of English Heritage, from www.britainfromabove.org.uk/.]

This aerial view was taken in 1952, looking east, and shows the plot “in the south-east corner of St John’s Bridge” which is almost certainly the site of the Eagles’ first few matches in the autumn of 1908. The bridge is at the bottom left, carrying London Road, with the Bedford to Cambridge railway line running underneath and away to the east. Immediately to the right of the railway line is a plot of land with two buildings identified on the Britainfromabove.org.uk website as the Sterling Foundry (nearest the road) and Gabriel Wade and English, timber merchants (further away). This agrees with the description in the 1952 Supporters’ Club Handbook.

This is quite specific in saying: “The ground used then [at the beginning of the 1908/9 season] was in the south- east corner of St John’s Bridge, now occupied by timber merchants and ironfounders”. This is very precise and it should be remembered that in 1952 many original supporters from 1908 would still have been alive. More significantly, two pages back in the Handbook appears a message from one of them-John Travers Hobkirk, chairman from 1911 to 1914, who said that he had read most of the material in draft. Hobkirk was then 84, but his recollections must carry some weight and my view is that in the absence of any more precisely identified fields, the one referred to in the Handbook has to be the leading contender.

Fortunately, an aerial photograph taken in 1952, reproduced above, gives us even firmer evidence. In 1952 the two buildings on the site immediately south east of the railway bridge were occupied by the Sterling Foundry and Gabriel Wade and English, timber merchants-exactly as described in the Handbook. This, then, is certainly the site referred to in the Handbook, and in my view has to be the most likely site used in 1908. It may even also be one of the sites used by the earlier Town club of the later 1890s, although that is more speculative.

The Sterling Foundry site today, occupied mainly by B&M Home Stores. This view was taken from the old railway bridge, the same orientation as in the 1952 aerial view reproduced earlier, and the cars parked on the left are on the track of the railway line (closed to passengers in 1967)

This ground was, however, used only very briefly, as is clear from the match reports of that first season. The only Northants League matches definitely reported as being played there were the first two home games of the season-against Wolverton on 19 September 1908 (drawn 2-2), and Northampton Reserves the following week (lost 1-5). About 500 to 600 people saw the Wolverton match, played in weather that was “uncomfortably warm for the players”, but no gate figure was recorded for the Northampton match.

The Bedfordshire Times reporter called the pitch merely “uneven” after the Wolverton match, but his colleague in the Pink ‘Un was more scathing. “Several great furrows need flattening before the ground becomes suitable for top class footer”. He added, significantly: “A change of venue is predicted for the very near future”[1].

This sounds like “inside” information, and it proved right. On 10 October 1908, while the first team were losing away to Peterborough City, the reserves played Kempston Rovers in the North Beds Charity Cup “at the Ford End Road ground”. A week later, on 17 October, the first team played Peterborough GN Loco, the works team of the Great Northern Railway’s locomotive depot, at what was described as “the Town Ground in Queen’s Park”. There is no trace of the London Road field being used again for a Bedford Town fixture[2].

The railwaymen from Peterborough are likely to have travelled on their own company’s system, using the main line, south as far as Sandy, and then changed to the Cambridge-Bedford branch to reach St John’s station. That would have been almost on the doorstep of the London Road ground. However, their correspondent complained in the Pink ‘Un for 24 October 1908 that “the ground is between two and three miles from the station, and our boys were fagged at the start”. Presumably their funds didn’t run to a cab, and we can sympathise as we imagine them, perhaps struggling with a hamper of kit and having to ask directions, as they tramped all the way to Queen’s Park and back again afterwards. (However, they still won, 1-0).

Why had the club moved after such a short time? The veteran trainer, Charlie Chester, said in his 1932 interview[3], quoted in my survey of the pre-1908 clubs (see Earliest Days-before 1908):

“The Eagles [at first] played on the London Road ground, but when we saw that gates were not good several of us put our heads together and tried to get the Queen’s Park ground again [my emphasis]. We were successful and Joe Evans, the butcher, let us have the ground”.

Here we need a little background. As his interview explains, Chester had come to Bedford in 1896 from his native Lincoln to take up a job at W H Allen’s, newly established in Queen’s Park, and had played for the works team. We know that this club had originally played at Willmers Meadow and then on the opposite side of London Road. By 1900 Queen’s, a highly successful club at the time, had joined the Northants League and moved to a ground off Kimbolton Road, also used for cycle races, but it was laid out in a bowl-shaped piece of land that flooded easily; so in January 1902, they moved to a ground off Ford End Road-a field that had sometimes been used for travelling fairs and circuses[4] . At the end of that season their members voted to become an “open” club , not confined to Allen’s Works employees, and to join the South Eastern League. At the meeting which approved this move, it was noted that “Mr Evans, who said his desire was to see a good football club, said he would sacrifice the rent for the field at Queen’s Park to help them (applause)”[5].

This advert from November 1899 illustrates earlier uses for Joe Evans’s meadow in Queen’s Park, later to become the Eyrie…..

The Inland Revenue assessment book entry (number 4700) for “Jos: Evans’” land in Queen’s Park, showing the substituted entry “Football Ground”-made somewhere between 1910 and 1915. The number corresponds to the map illustrated below. “T Jarvis” is shown as the owner of the freehold. (By kind permission of Beds and Luton Archive Services).

In the 1901 and 1911 census returns and the street directories of the period, a “Joseph Evans” is recorded as a butcher in business at 28 Ford End Road[6]. And in the national survey of land ownership and occupation carried out by the Inland Revenue after the 1910 Finance Act, a “ Jos: Evans” is shown as occupying a field, owned by “T Jarvis”, to the south of Ford End Road at this period[7]. The site was just over 15 acres in extent and originally described as “land and sporting rights”, but in the Inland Revenue assessment book, that has been struck through and the words “Football Ground” substituted. The area had a gross rental value of just over £60.

It’s highly probable, therefore, that this is the land which Evans was sub- letting to the Queen’s Works club in 1902, and the same land that Charlie Chester meant when he said that the new Town club persuaded Evans to let them have it “again” in 1908. Queen’s had folded up in 1904-their venture into the South Eastern League proved a financial disaster-so between then and 1908 the land may have reverted to whatever Evans had used it for originally-possibly, like many butchers at the time, he also fattened his own animals and needed somewhere to keep them[8].

At this point the picture becomes a little less clear. The 1952 account says: “the pitch then [when the club first moved to Queen’s Park] lay between Havelock Street and Lawrence Street, and ran parallel to the river”. Then after recounting how John Hobkirk took over as chairman in 1911, it goes on: “it was about this time that the pitch was moved over to its present [1952] position”-which was, as supporters will remember, was further west and located at the end of Nelson and Raleigh Streets, the two streets immediately to the west of Havelock and Lawrence Streets, and, of course, oriented north-south, at right angles to the river.

The map accompanying the Inland Revenue survey shows the large field, numbered 4700, recorded in the assessment book (see above) as owned by T Jarvis but occupied by Joseph Evans, and used as a football ground. It can be seen that this field abuts the ends of Havelock, Lawrence, Nelson and Raleigh Streets-allowing plenty of room for the pitch to be moved westwards within the same plot, although it is unclear exactly when this happened. (By kind permission of Beds and Luton Archive Services).

There is no mention in press reports of early matches in Queen’s Park of such a relocation about 1911. Chester didn’t mention it in his 1932 interview either. The only evidence concerns the orientation of the pitch: up to the suspension of football in 1914 teams are often said to be playing towards or away from the Gasworks, or against an east wind, which implies a pitch running east-west and parallel to the Ouse, whereas after the War the references are always to playing to or away from the river or Ford End Road, which is clearly at a 90 degree angle to the pre-war orientation[9]. It seems likely that there was also some westwards relocation, maybe soon after the 1908 move, but it seems to have passed off without press comment-perhaps because it happened in the close season.

What was it like to play on Joe Evans’s meadow in those days? The 1952 Handbook recalled that supporters volunteered their own labour to “level off the very rough surface", and in 1958 the Bedfordshire Times interviewed Harry Mardle, one of the stars of the pre-1914 team, who remembered that the grass was never short enough and wingers used to complain that it wasn’t mown sufficiently close to the touchlines[10]. In the summer of 1910, the local paper said that the previous season “there had been room for great improvement in the condition of the field”, but reported that a steam-roller belonging to the town corporation had been borrowed which “has converted the playing pitch into a lawn-like smoothness which would compare favourably with many cricket tables”. Posts connected “with a strong strand of wire” had also been erected to keep spectators fenced in and stop them from invading the pitch “and calling down the injunctions of the Beds FA”. [11]

The ground did, however, acquire an excellent reputation for drainage, and it's difficult to recall a match ever being called off for a waterlogged pitch. John Plummer, who played for the club in 1956/7, recalled: "I have played on some excellent grounds in different countries, but Bedford's was the best. The grass was always green due to the fact that during the first world war it was used as an army camp and the coke from fires was dumped around the tents, and as a result it later made for excellent drainage. So if we had a downpour, the water left the field lush but quite firm for a good footing".

For spectators the ground would have seemed very basic: there was no shelter or other accommodation, and when attendances exceeded a few hundred it must have been hard for latecomers (unless they were very tall) to get much of a view. Getting to the ground also had its problems. Attending a match between two works’ teams a few months after the Eagles’ move, a reporter commented sarcastically:

“The ground is approached by a noble structure known as the Midland Road railway bridge, across which the more affluent are ferried for the trifling sum of 1d, [presumably by bus?] while the humbler population take off their shoes and stockings and wade. The gutters are carefully preserved as cycle tracks, the liquid mud being kept at a level not exceeding four inches”.[12]

Spectator comfort could not be completely ignored, however, now that people had to pay 3d to get in (later increased to 6d). After a damp game against Wellingborough Redwell in November 1911 the club agreed to put down duckboards to help keep people’s feet dry, but any actual shelter was some way off. If the weather turned really bad people simply left to seek shelter wherever they could find it: on Easter Monday 1909, when Kempston Rovers met Luton Clarence on the ground in the County Cup final, play had to be suspended in the first half because of a torrential downpour, but when the referee decided to restart after the rain had passed most of the spectators, and even some of the players, had gone home and a long delay resulted. Reporting on a Beds Senior Cup match against Luton Reliance on 25 January 1913, a scribe referred to “the old Ford End Road ground, bleak and unsheltered beneath the frowning gasometers, across which the cold wind always seems to blow”.

By 1914, when Tottenham sent a team for a friendly in February, the ground boasted a “reserved side”, where ladies were admitted free but gentlemen paid 6d instead of 3d: perhaps this was intended to assure the ladies that they would be accompanied by the more respectable type of male spectator. But by the time the Eagles had to move out when the military authorities took over the area for wartime uses, the field was just that-a field, maybe with some duckboards for wet days and a rope to divide spectators from players but nothing more.

A plan of the County School site off Ampthill Road as it would have appeared around the time Bedford briefly played there in 1919, with the playing field shown. (By kind permission of Beds and Luton Archive Services)

With the Ford End Road ground still in military hands when Northants League football restarted in 1919, the club found a temporary home on the playing field of what was generally still known as the County School, a former boys’ boarding school in Ampthill Road, although its correct name was “Elstow School”, at any rate until it closed down in 1916; its buildings later became the headquarters of the Cosmic Crayon company and were demolished in the 1960s[13]. The site today houses office buildings called Kings House and Technology House, and the playing fields have also been built on. The Pink ‘Un’s reporter covering the Kettering FA Cup tie in October 1919, watched by about 800 people, said that the playing surface was “level as a billiard board with turf cropped as close as Lord’s cricket ground”.

The trees in the upper view may have been in position in 1919, but that is about all that survives today of the former County or Elstow School playing field, where the Eagles briefly played between September and December 1919. Technology House, on the right of the upper picture, occupies approximately the site of the old school buildings. The aerial view in the lower view (by courtesy of English Heritage, from www.britainfromabove.org.uk/) was taken in the 1930s and shows the school buildings on Ampthill Road with the playing fields to the left and rear of the buildings, which were demolished in the 1960s. The dark fir trees to the left of what appears to be a small chapel to the left of the main building may be the ones in the present-day view above

Bedford lost that match by 1-6, but won four other home matches at the school ground before they were able to re-occupy their old home for a friendly with Luton Clarence on 13 December 1919, and the first League match back at the ground was against Stamford the following week. In case supporters had forgotten, the local papers reminded them that they could gain admittance either from Ford End Road or via the “River Walk, New Bridge”-meaning the riverside path to Queen’s Park which opened up from the Prebend Street or “New” Bridge[14] .

Several years of military use had taken their toll. Writing about the Clarence match, the Times reporter said: “The ground is in a very bad state, and goodness knows what it will be like at the end of the season. ….many passes were missed, players skidded, miskicked and did everything but keep to their feet… a steamroller would soon pull it into shape”. However, there was little adverse comment after that, so with or without a steamroller, it seems that the pitch was restored to better shape.

At the start of the 1920/1 season supporters from Kempston were spared the long journey via the town centre to Queen’s Park by the introduction of a ferry service, starting half an hour before kick-off, from the northern end of Whitbread Avenue to the Slipe, the path leading to Ford End Road from the opposite river bank: this service is occasionally mentioned in later years but it isn’t certain how regularly it ran. The river was not bridged here until 1953. By the following summer, the need for better viewing facilities was becoming obvious as crowds of 1500 or 2,000 attended bigger games: the chairman, Ted Humphreys, told the AGM that “the ground has been banked up, and the larger crowds expected will have no difficulty seeing the game”. Photographs do appear to show some banking, presumably of earth or rubble, along the eastern side and at the river end around this period.

A more substantial solution to the problem, however, arrived in 1922 in the shape of a new grandstand on the western side of the ground, seating some 300 people[15] and costing £250. This was lent to the club, interest free, by what were described as “friends”. It had five rows of seats and was 200 feet long, 16 feet high and 18 feet deep, and was built by the Bedford Pattern Making Co; it had a “fenced enclosure” on either side, a carved eagle on top, and even a “press table” for journalists.[16] It was opened on 26 August 1922 before a pre-season friendly against Biggleswade by the Mayor.

This montage in the Bedfordshire Times for 1 September 1922 celebrated the opening of the new stand at a pre-season friendly the previous Saturday. Note the mascot (centre) and the distant view of the open Ford End Road end with the houses in Raleigh Street beyond (top right). For more on this stand see The Eyrie in photographs.(Thanks to Barry Stephenson of Bedfordshire Libraries for his help in making this photograph available).

The debt on this stand recurs in reports of the club accounts well into the 1930s, and it isn’t clear who originally advanced it, though Dick Spencer may well have bought all or part of the debt when he reorganised the finances after 1930. In 1928 the structure acquired a downward-sloping canopy under which further seating could be installed and the eventual seated capacity was about 400[17]. Those supporters of my sort of age who remember the old stands at Kettering’s Rockingham Road ground will have some idea of its appearance. It was rarely seen in photographs, which were usually taken looking towards the other side of the ground, perhaps because the winter sun would be setting directly in the photographer’s face if he stood on the eastern side. The areas to either side of the stand were banked, and the banking at the southern end (nearest the river) became known as Barrackers’ Hill, because some of the most vocal supporters gathered there.

In 1910,according to the Inland Revenue survey, the owner of the land was one “T Jarvis” who may have been a member of a brewing family of that name. By 1921 it had been acquired by Charles Wells, also brewers of course, who own it to this day[18]. At the AGM that year a supporter asked if the club could buy the freehold, but chairman Humphreys replied that they were only able to rent it for twelve months at a time; anyone who knew of 20 acres for sale elsewhere was asked to get in touch with him. By the following summer the club had been able to secure a five year lease, which was extended to 14 years in 1925, but already the seeds of the club’s demise nearly 60 years later had been sown.

This 1926 map shows the small stand in place and a definite boundary of some sort round the ground

In 1923 the club erected some screens –probably along the Slipe path-to stop people watching the match without payment, a problem at many undeveloped grounds in those days. The following year the AGM was told that Charles Wells had increased the rent from £40 to £50-it had earlier been £25-and because one of the family, Richard (later Sir Richard) Wells, was the borough MP, a wag asked the chairman: “Will you tell Mr Wells that if he doesn’t reduce the rent he will lose some votes at the next election?”, only to be reminded that the ground belonged to the Wells company rather than individuals.

The rarely photographed 1922 stand can be seen in this April 1936 view-not actually an Eagles’ match but the final of the Bedford Thursday League Cup between the Post Office and Alexandria clubs. It appears to still have its eagle mascot on the roof, but has acquired a downward sloping front canopy to increase its capacity.

Spectators who could afford an extra 6d for a stand seat were now in the dry but the players and officials still had no changing facilities on the ground. The Horse and Groom pub, which stood on the corner of Ford End Road and Havelock Street until demolished about 2005, had to serve as changing rooms; before the Great War its landlord had been Ted Humphreys’ father, Fred, which is probably how the arrangement came into being. A contributor to the 1999 book of supporters’ reminiscences, The Eyrie Roar, remembered how some players-especially Jack Chester-had to be reminded to leave the public bar in time to get changed.

Reports up to now had usually referred to the “Ford End Road ground” or the “Queen’s Park ground”. On 16 September 1927, the Bedfordshire Times’s football correspondent wrote: “It is really paradoxical that the proud king of the air, as the eagle is styled, should flap his wings in surroundings so prosaically named as the “Ford End Road ground””, and proposed to rename the ground the Eyrie. Thereafter the papers seem to have gradually adopted the name and by the following decade it had become generally accepted by everyone. [19]

The Horse and Groom pub where players changed until dressing rooms were built on the ground in 1931. It was demolished about 2005 and its site is now a car park.

The next step was clearly to extend the covered accommodation to other parts of the ground, and in 1929 the Committee called for the establishment of a “five shilling fund” to pay for a shelter on the eastern side. Nothing seems to have been done, however, until after the near-financial meltdown of the summer of 1930, covered in the “Seasons on the Pitch” section, and it was the new chairman, Dick Spencer, who brought the plan to fruition. It was a fairly modest structure perhaps covering a quarter of the touchline and had some sort of rudimentary terracing inside. It was first used for the match against Wellingborough on 15 November 1930, when a heavy shower gave it a suitable baptism. People appear to have preferred to stand in the open but crowded beneath the shelter when the heavens opened.

Photo by courtesy of English Heritage, from www.britainfromabove.org.uk/.]

This 1930s aerial view, looking east over the town, shows the Eyrie in the bottom left hand corner with the Gasworks side shelter visible with its white fascia board. Some banking can also be seen on the right of the shelter. Another football pitch, with goalposts, is behind the shelter.

A closer view of the eastern side shelter, indicating its modest dimensions, can be seen in this action photo from the East Midlands League match against Kettering on 8 February 1936. Percy Bowles prepares to take a high ball watched by Tommy Cummings. The result was a horrible 2-9 defeat.

Spencer’s next project was proper dressing rooms on the ground, to avoid the use of the Horse and Groom. These were finished in time for the East Midlands League match against Northampton Reserves on 17 January 1931, when the Cobblers’ chairman officially opened them. No photographs seem to have survived, but they would appear to have been built on to the back of the stand, and although they were doubtless more convenient than using the nearby pub, and did duty until 1952, they weren’t exactly palatial (see 1952/3 Summary).

By January 1932, a second shelter had been completed at the Ford End Road end of the ground-it only seems to have run for the central part of the touchline and was much shallower than the concrete roofed structure built there in 1953, which still survives inside the brewery complex. A car park was also provided behind this shelter and further screens were put up to keep out any freeloaders who still declined to pay their 6d (4d for boys). Somewhere, probably in the form of free-standing buildings at the back of the stand, a new committee room and referee’s changing room were also built around this time[20].

Exactly how all this work was financed isn’t clear, but Dick Spencer was clearly central to it. At the 1932 AGM it was stated that as part of the deal by which he paid off the debts incurred by the old Committee, he would be entitled to £50 plus the stand receipts from the previous season. How long this arrangement persisted is unknown. The fetes held on the ground each Whit Monday in the 30s also raised valuable funds, at least when the weather was favourable.

The ground had now virtually reached the form it was to retain until the early 50s. It could accommodate at least some 6,000 people (the then record gate against Dartford in 1934/5 was 5,667), and even if some of them would get wet when it rained, thanks to the various structures and banking they could probably see what was happening on the field.

The chill economic winds which started to bite on the club in the later 30s made any further substantial development out of the question. The last significant change to the look of the Eyrie was the result of a different kind of wind-a winter storm which demolished the Gasworks side shelter. This seems to have occurred some time in late 1938: in January of 1939 it was announced that an anonymous donor, who may well have been Jack Salsbury, would pay for a replacement. Meanwhile supporters could sit in the main stand without extra payment.

The “new” shelter, a rather unimpressive effort, was ready for the start of the 1939/40 season but after surviving the Second World War years, it was itself blown away in the winter of 1945/6, and was replaced by the much more capacious “Long Shelter” that survived until the ground itself was no more. From summer 1940 until the end of the war the ground lay unused except, as contributors to The Eyrie Roar recalled 50 years later, for occasionally hosting circuses-just as it had done back in the 1890s.

To follow the post war history of the Eyrie go to The Eyrie in photographs.

The rather unimpressive replacement shelter on the Gasworks side which was built in early 1939 to replace the one opened in 1930 can be seen in this view of the last peacetime match at the Eyrie, on 2 September 1939 when the Eagles lost 2-3 to Desborough in what also proved to be their last United Counties League match. Left to right the Eagles’ forwards are P Keenan, Pat O’Donnell and Ron Gilbert. Within 24 hours the country was at war with Germany.

Photo by courtesy of English Heritage, from www.britainfromabove.org.uk/.]

This aerial view from 1932 shows the Eyrie right centre, to the right of the gasholders and with the Ford End Road bridge running across the bottom of the photograph. On the ground the small 1922 stand (top), the 1930 shelter on the opposite touchline, and the 1932 shelter behind the Ford End Road goal are the only permanent structures. Looking beyond the ground one can see the Ouse snaking through the meadows, but no bridge across the Slipe leading to Kempston: that was not built until after the war, and a ferry operated on match days to bring supporters from Kempston across the river for 2d.

Photo by courtesy of English Heritage, from www.britainfromabove.org.uk/

Another aerial view from 1931 taken from the south, shows the ground to the lower left with the 1922 stand and the east side covered terrace installed earlier that year. As yet there is no cover at the northern end, and both Raleigh and Nelson Streets appear to have been incomplete.

Between 1930 and 1935, when Dick Spencer was effectively chairman and Bob Baker secretary, a major event in the town’s calendar was the Whit Monday fete at the Eyrie, aimed at raising funds for the club. This shows the 1934 event, which raised £85 and attracted 10,000. Bands played, boxing matches were staged and on one occasion a balloon race was won by a contestant whose balloon ended up in Switzerland. The shelter at the Ford End Road end can be seen here beyond the crowds, and the main stand roof with its canopy on the left.


AND FINALLY……

And finally-above, the view looking north today along the Slipe, with a fragmentary view of the Eyrie boundary wall peeping through the vegetation next to the litter bin to the right of the path. The blue/grey building looming over the wall is part of the Wells Brewery and can also be seen in the Google Earth picture below

Above, [Photo copyright Google Earth] The Eyrie location seen from the air today. The brewery site can be clearly seen, with a large white-roofed building occupying most of the area of the old pitch. The small grey concrete building running left to right near the ends of Raleigh and Nelson Streets is the remains of the 1953 covered terracing, now in brewery use.

One of the remaining gasholders as seen from the railway footbridge to the east of the Eyrie site-for some 75 years it will have looked out over the triumphs and disappointments of a football club, now almost completely vanished.


[1] Pink ‘Un for 26 September 1908

[2] In the interests of fairness I should record that the 1952 Handbook places the move to Queen’s Park a little later, to “the early part of 1909”. The newspaper evidence doesn’t support this, although it’s possible that some reserve matches were played there later in 1908.

[3] Bedford Record for 13 December 1932

[4] Bedfordshire Mercury for 3 January 1902.

[5] Bedfordshire Mercury, 2 May 1902

[6] He and his wife seem to have lived there as well, despite having nine children and a nephew sharing the premises according to the 1911 census (RG14; Piece: 8876; Schedule Number 261). Later the business was acquired by J S Danes, who advertised in the programme in the 50s. His daughter June married Frank O’Hagan!

[7] The survey was carried out some time between 1910 and 1915 but the books are not usually dated.

[8] Beds and Luton Archives, reference DBV1/15

[9] For example-on 26 December 1908 Fletton United “kicked off against a strong east wind”. On 24 April 1909 the Eagles “attacked the east end” against Rushden Fosse. On 18 February 1911 the GN Locomen went two goals up in the first half because the east wind kept play “at the east end” and they had won the toss (the Eagles got four in the second half!). On 28 October 1911 Bedford “kicked towards the gasworks” against Raunds. They did so again on 27 September 1913 against Rushden Windmill. However, on 20 December 1919 against Stamford, the first Northants League game at Queen’s Park after the War, the visitors “played up the field towards Ford End Road”. That seems to be the earliest mention of such an orientation.

[10] 22 August 1958

[11] Bedfordshire Times, 19 August 1910

[12] Bedfordshire Times, 25 December 1908.

[13] For more details see http://www.bedfordshire.gov.uk/communityandliving/archivesandrecordoffice/communityarchives/kempston/bedfordshiremiddleclasspublicschool.aspx.

[14] “New” because although opened in 1885, it was newer than the Town Bridge! The County Bridge occupies the site today.

[15] Rushden Town had recently completed a stand seating 700, an indication of the larger gates they commanded at this period: see http://www.rushdenheritage.co.uk/leisure/RushdenFootballClub1920s.html.

[16] See description in the Bedfordshire Times for 25 August 1922.

[17] The report of the 1928 AGM says that the accommodation had been increased to 750, but that must surely mean that the additional fans were standing rather than sitting. The canopy was blown away in a storm in 1952, but replaced before the stand was finally demolished in 1956.

[18] Charles Wells acquired the Jarvis brewing business in 1923, and it’s possible that their acquisition of the site of the Eyrie was connected with this transaction. (See A Whitaker, Brewers in Hertfordshire-a historical gazetteer (Hertfordshire Publications, 2006, available on Google Books)

[19] At this stage reports in the local papers didn’t carry a byline, so we can’t be sure who deserves the credit for this idea.

[20] In The Eyrie Roar (1999), a supporter, Neil Southam, recalled that “there was a brick shed covered in corrugated iron” and “something like a French barn” on the western side as well as the stand.